The Ceiling

I can touch the ceiling. Literally, I can stand up straight and touch the ceiling of my basement suite with ease, a couple inches to spare.

Let me describe it: cottage cheese white plaster, both in colour and texture. Towards the bay window of the living room the ceiling is pockmarked with pinprick holes, literally for pins to hold up the paper blinds I generally don’t even pin up.

When I touch it, sometimes it’s my fingers. Gently grazing, or pressing upward, fingers straight and moving back. Other times I ball my fists, knucklebones flat against the smooth-yet-bumpy surface. I push my feet into the carpet and push my fists up, straightening my spine and flexing the ceiling upward. The inner woodwork, the hidden floorboards creak in the opposite direction. Like a someone doing yoga for the first time, flexing their spine back in a way it never has.

I imagine this feels good for the ceiling.

Tonight, though… Tonight I touched the ceiling, and it didn’t feel good for me.

It wasn’t bad, either. It was more of a textual revelation. In the same second that I reflected to myself, “I’m touching the ceiling,” a phrase reflexed back: “I’ve hit the ceiling.” As I stood there with music playing around me,  I tried to think of the exact meaning. But just as quickly I felt a moment of revelation. I inherently knew what it meant… or at least I thought I did.

The obvious idiom is “to hit the roof” (though “ceiling” can be used too), in terms of exploding with anger. To reach the ceiling is to reach one’s limits of patience, tolerance, restraint, etc. But that’s not what I was thinking of.

No, in a more general sense I pictured my own limitations. My own ceiling, self-built and self-imposed. Maybe even a “glass ceiling”, to use that idiom. But it’s not a cultural limit, not a socio-economic or -political one. No one is holding me down. Nobody but me.

And that’s not even the revelation. I’ve long known – moreso over the past few years – that I’m the only one holding me back. You constantly hear motivational speeches that use the phrase, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.” But they never tell you what to do when you realize that your greatest impedance in life is yourself. They don’t tell you just how heavy and thickly built your own wall – your own ceiling – can really be.

And so I’ve long reached that ceiling. It’s not permanent. Like this old house I live in, the materials are not invincible. I press up at the floorboards and they creak. They bend, which means they can be broken. With enough force, with enough sheer drive, I can punch through and shatter the whole illusion.

It seems difficult because it’s an upward direction. It’s easy enough to take a sledgehammer or an axe and smash downward, demolishing everything on the way to rock-bottom. But smashing upward… that’s using your body, your spirit, your will towards a strange bearing.

Again, I know where I’m at in life. I’ve been here a while, cozy down in this comfort zone. Aware of my box. Able to touch its top. Just not terribly concerned with breaking through. Too tired to take a chance.

But let’s not be too hard on myself, me. In ways I have been trying. University education, freelance writing, the pitfalls and balancing acts of day-jobs… it’s been a touch couple years. It’s best to be kind to myself.

But be honest with myself, too. Don’t get too comfortable; don’t get too complacent. I’ve already lived in that headspace for a long, long time prior to choosing my new path in life as a writer. But there’s no reason to go back.

I’ve just begun to test the ceiling. I’ve just begun to poke and prod at it, pushing at its weak wood, putting holes in its plaster. It’s not impervious; it’s not permanent. But it’s going to take more to really break through. It’s going to take emotion. It’s going to take passion.

Maybe in order to hit the ceiling, I really need to hit the roof!

©2017 Andrew Hall Writes

 

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